The Peacock Room

Gallery 12

Throughout December, you can step into the Peacock Room, Whistler’s icon of aesthetic decoration, and see how it looked in 1908, when was it was installed in Charles Lang Freer’s home in Detroit. The shutters are open as usual on the third Thursday of the month, December 20, from noon to 5:30 pm. Your last chance to see the Peacock Room installed with the current ceramics collection is Sunday, January 6.

The Peacock Room is temporarily closed January 7–18 to prepare for a new installation of Chinese ceramics in the spring. Please note that the shutters will not be opened in January.

When the Peacock Room reopens on Friday, January 19, you can view it as Whistler did—as a work of art in itself. With the ceramics removed from the shelves, The Peacock Room Revealed provides an unobstructed view to examine the colors and peacock patterns Whistler used to transform a dining room into “a harmony in blue and gold.”

Shelves remain empty into mid-April, when they are once again filled with Chinese blue-and-white porcelain of the type that enlivened the room in the nineteenth century. To prepare for this installation, the Peacock Room is temporarily closed from late April to early May, when it reopens in conjunction with the exhibition Whistler in Watercolor.

Before the Peacock Room became a work of art by James McNeill Whistler, it was the dining room in the London mansion of Frederick Leyland. Its shelves were designed to showcase the British shipping magnate’s collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Whistler completely redecorated the room in 1876 and 1877 as a “harmony in blue and gold.” Leyland was far from pleased with the transformation and the artist’s fee. He quarrelled with Whistler, but he kept the room intact.

Charles Lang Freer purchased the room in 1904. He had it taken apart, shipped across the Atlantic, and reassembled in his home in Detroit, Michigan. There, he gradually filled its shelves with ceramics collected from Syria, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. For Freer, the Peacock Room embodied his belief that “all works of art go together, whatever their period.”

Whistler’s extravagant interior has been on permanent display since the Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923. Located between galleries of Chinese and American art, the Peacock Room remains a place where Asia meets America.

Learn more about the Peacock Room.


Did you know? One afternoon per month, we open the shutters of the Peacock Room so you can see it in a whole new light. When the shutters of Whistler’s “harmony in blue and gold” are open, a flood of natural light turns the Peacock Room into a glowing jewel of blue, green, and gold tones. Details, colors, and textures are revealed in the sunlight—and a special filtering film on the windows minimizes fading.

The Peacock Room shutters are open on the third Thursday of each month from noon to 5:30 pm. No reservations or advanced ticketing necessary.

Please note: The Peacock Room shutters will not be opened in January 2019.